Travel is my most favorite niche category in eCommerce. That’s why I keep coming to WebinTravel conference, where you could mingle around travel executives around the world to keep updated with the trends. This time I’d love to share a chat with one of my long time aspiring travel veterans Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, a travel and aviation guru in the world travel industry with his startup Air Black Box – one of the world multi-carrier cross selling solutions. Before Air Black Box, Tim was not a stranger in the startup world. He started his travel consultancy firm T2Impact and a travel accelerator VaultPad since 1998 and 2012 respectively.
Timothy O’Neil-Dunne is a long time Travel Geek. He has been involved in the Travel business for most of his working life. In his spare time, he writes about travel in particular aviation, technology, startups and innovation in long and short forms. A former Head of International Travel product for several global companies including Expedia, Travelport.. Timothy is also a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes as Professor Sabena at his own blog
Hello Tim, could you share something about Air Black Box?
Air Black Box lets any pair of airlines truly cross-sell their product while maintaining their brand integrity. We help any airlines by connecting them with their mutual benefit partner.
Today it’s very difficult for airlines to bring conventional ecommerce techniques into airline retailing. Air Black Box handles this. We tell the airlines, “Look, It’s a black box. Don’t worry about the complexity. We’ll handle it on the back-end.”
Note: I have talked with a person in charge of API connecting for an airlines in Singapore, and the process to connect two airlines could take one year to reach an agreement. Then another three-month or more to do the technical work.
How did you come up with the idea and shaping the team?
ABB was created as a direct result of many years of observation and research. The team became keenly aware that traditional airline selling systems were not meeting the needs of either the customers of airlines nor the airlines themselves. We wanted to address this and felt the first product we needed to deliver had to demonstrate that the platform could work in almost any market segment. We therefore chose airline cross selling.
Shaping the team meant we needed to think differently and operate in a low cost model – just like some of our airlines customers. We gathered the best we could for product, brand, strategy and technology.
Note: Today his team has more than 40 members across US, UK and Asia with the majority are software engineers.
How is it like one of your typical days?
The line between day and night doesn’t really apply for those who work in operational businesses. ABB supports airlines 7×24 and around the world.
Think first then discuss then plan the best possible answer. That requires collaboration with a highly capable group.
How is it like the working process between your startup and customers?
We align ourselves with our customers and make sure we have a common understanding for all parties.
Your startup based in the West (UK & US), but seem till date most of your published partners/clients in Asia? why?
Asia is the most advanced market for competitive airlines.
What do you think about mobile commerce? And how does your solution support this trend?
Mobile is largely it for everything. But the small screen size forces add ons that are usually not working well to deliver the breadth and depth of the user experience.
How do you make money?
ABB makes money via transactions and unique development of products for its customer.
Note: Air Black Box already breaks even just after 12 months in operation with some customers in Asia. The young startup also signed up with a grant from Innovate, a UK investment fund as the first investor. Till date Philippines’ Cebu Pacific , and Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) Holdings, Jeju Airlines have made undisclosed amount of investments in the Asia carrier unit of UK-based Air Black Box.
Whats your startup plan for next 12 months?
Build more relationships
Launch more products
Attract more customers
What would be the next big trends in Asia for next 5 years?
Continuing to differentiate from the West.
What’s your favorite hobbies outside of work?
Relaxation (catching up on sleep) and reading
Whats your startup motto?
Hope is not a strategy
What are your favorite books and why?
I read a lot of books on WW2. I read a lot of biographies trying to understand how great men and women think.
What are your favorite trendy digital product?
I am not a really trendy person. But these days anything that shows benefit that is clear and has monetary value.
Anything else you wanna share?
We are about infrastructure and improving the core processes of retailing.
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